WE ARE WOLVES at the Drake (1150 Queen West), Thursday (February 2), 9 pm doors. $12. 416-531-5042. Rating: NNNNN
Alexander Ortiz wants everyone to just get over it. Yeah, his band We Are Wolves use lupines in their name, and, yes, they hail from the same city as hype heirs Wolf Parade and noise merchants AIDS Wolf, but as Ortiz pleads, it's just a name, so please quit obsessing.
Besides, We Are Wolves aren't exactly new to the pack. They had the predatory moniker well before Montreal heated up under Arcade Fire's spotlight.
"We've had that name for almost five years now," Ortiz says tersely. "We thought about changing it before the record came out, or at least changing Wolves but keeping the We Are and find another thing to go with it, but our friends told us not to."
The band's disc, Non-Stop Je Te Plie En Deux, which came out last September, translates into the suggestively sexual Non-stop I Fold You In Two. Ortiz insists the title merely reflects his youth spent watching local amateur wrestling, but he won't deny that prurience plays a role in WAW's clamorous electro-rock groove.
"It's a mixture between wrestling, dancing and sexuality," explains the Colombian-born frontman. "Sex is a natural tension in life and one of the major inspirations in our music, I think, but not in a perverted or emphasized way.
"In Montreal, you can feel that seductive aspect. We have really hard and depressing winters, and when spring comes everyone goes crazy and wants to show their skin. With all those beautiful girls around, you get that sexual tension. It's crazy how many beautiful girls there are here - that's a major influence."
That might explain why Montreal has so many musicians. Ortiz, Antonin Marquis (drums) and Vincent Levesque (keyboards) hooked up in 2000 but didn't get serious until continuous show offers convinced them otherwise. After borrowing cash to cut a record, the band really started to work.
The gambit has paid off so far. Last spring they landed a plush tour spot with And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, a band that fills large theatres and small arenas, and while on the road they signed to Mississippi blues brokers Fat Possum, home of the Black Keys and the late R. L. Burnside. Not bad for their first outing stateside.
"It was really weird," Ortiz recalls of the excursion. "We were always playing 5,000-people venues as the opening band, so it was early and people weren't there yet. But just hanging out with Conrad (Keely) was awesome. He's the most genius, insane person I've seen, and I'm happy to be with Fat Possum. When I think about it, I feel really awkward about it - it's just weird. But I'm proud to be affiliated with the label and its artistic credibility."
This all sounds almost too easy. Still, give Non-Stop some of the credit. It's not trying to be appeal to Arcade fans or join the Parade's growing legion of followers. The loose and jerky industrial rhythms in Vosotros, Monstruos are club-ready, and sleazy garage numbers like Snare Me sound like the Cramps violating a computer. It's more Les Georges Leningrads and Liars than cribbed versions of what currently reigns on college radio.
Unfortunately, a hot record won't save them from their new band-name menace: buzzy Brooklynites We Are Scientists.
"We heard about them," groans Ortiz. "It's not frustrating, but it's sad. We're a small band, so we're not that well known, and we're always going to be perceived as copying other bands. We've had the Wolves phase; now we're going to have the 'We Are' phase. What can we do?"